17 Nov

Quite a lot of people have tried to define the age we live in and almost without exception they come out with words that imply that, politically, we live in post-truth Britain.

But what does this mean? For as long as I can remember politicians have been accused of being free and easy when it comes to the truth. Quite often the actual facts behind a situation might get in the way of their own personal happiness, wealth or sex life. Yes, I did say sex life. There’s not much some politicians (or men of any persuasion, be they politicians, bin-men or lawyers amongst the whole rainbow of employed people) wouldn’t promise in bed to a loved one when they’re in the opening glory and first muscular twitch of an orgasm. And promises, if made to one’s nearest and dearest, are often reasonably sacrosanct.

But it’s not the bed-room mutterings I’m thinking of so much as the wealth ones. Politicians like to line their pockets because there’s one thing they know about their jobs and that is the simple fact it might only last until the next election, when a disenchanted public might oust them from the gravy train.

And in this age of materialism the gravy on that train is positively addictive.

Let’s look at this particular period of time with my birth bracketing one end and today bracketing the other.

The world has, in that seventy-three (almost) years become a very different place. My father died within only a few years of me being was born, so I was brought up (with my younger brother) by a widowed mother and the one pride and joy in our home was the radiogram. It was furniture. It was polished. And it made sounds. The gram part, although electric, only had one speed (78 rpm) and the radio had never heard of VHF. Many people had similar radiograms but few had a better one. We didn’t have a television set (there were a few around, my uncle had one with a tiny screen and pictures in less than fifty shades of grey – they said it was black and white but in all honesty when my mum dragged me to his house there was only grey and never actual black or real white.

Domestic chores were done (by mum) by hand and the house was owned by the local council as part of a large estate of hastily built steel houses put up in haste to house people made homeless by the German Luftwaffe.

So the only thing of any worth we owned was that radiogram, and I wish I had it now. But it probably went into a tip when my mother died half a century ago. The thing is, though, we may have been poorer than most but I, as a schoolboy, didn’t really know that. I wore a school uniform (all of the daylight hours, I didn’t have what you would call casual play clothes) and my grey shorts were the same as anyone else’s grey shorts. They didn’t mark me out as being different. The society we lived in, still shuddering from wartime destruction of both property and lives, didn’t make life any harder for my mum that widowhood would anyway. And she lived in an age that was still warped by Victorian false morality and I believe never thought once of relieving the sexual tensions brought on by her widowed status with a parade of strangers marching through her bedroom. She wouldn’t even have turned to plastic. But all that is by the by.

These days there’s so much more.

Look around your home and at the devices few people owned back when the bracket opened. Kitchen appliances. That blessing in electronic disguise, the microwave. We had a cooker. Gas. Full stop. No mixer, food processor, electric tin opener, electric kettle… Nothing fancy like that, and until well into the fifties the iron was heated on the cooker hob.

My mother only ever owned one vacuum cleaner and it was a small hand-held one and she used it on the stairs. The rest of the house was swept, which was easy because the main floor covering was linoleum. Her sister had a carpet sweeper which the small boy me thought was magical when we called on her. You pushed it and hey! It picked things up! Things so small you couldn’t even see them! But then, she had the odd carpet in her home.

As I said, we had the radiogram and with it my mum had a selection of a few 78 rpm records. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on two twelve inch records was played until the grooves gave out, and even beyond that, and there were maybe a dozen other more popular discs, gathered by her over many years. Lovely.

The radio aerial was a single length of wire that ran round the room, tucked neatly into the dado rail about a foot down from the ceiling and running round the front room. So we had decent reception, though that damned radio never managed to pick up Radio Luxembourg on 208 metres because the nearby BBC transmitter with its Third Programme output drowned out most things, especially when small boys were trying to tune in to something less classical.

And that was it. My mother didn’t own her home, had a radiogram and a copper in the kitchen in which she slavishly washed our clothes, and if she had the time a tiny hand-held vacuum cleaner for the dust on the stairs. We didn’t have a car (even now I can remember that man next door telling her she really ought to buy a car, it would make life so much easier, and her reply that she was a woman and didn’t drive…) Yes! In 1948ish a woman thought it less than womanly to drive! And before you all put fingers on keyboard in anger, I do know there were lady drivers back then!

The thing is, and this is the main point of this piece, the actual possession of material goods was on a different plane to the one it’s on today. And that’s true for everyone, even politicians.

So if a politician can, by lying, make life a little richer for himself then that’s what most of them will do. By a vote here, by a whispered word there, and when Referendums come along by as many dirty big lies as they can conjure up.

And wealth is addictive. The more some people get then the more they want, which explains in part what motivates the Farages, Johnsons and Trumps of this world. They will invent any version of what was never the actual truth in order to further their aims, and be most convincing when they say it. And the rest of us, those who’re never quite sure when our modest wealth is going to run out or be stolen by big business backed by a political elite, endorse their lies because we want to believe them.

So we have Brexit and the Americans have Trump, both brought about by lies or such gross distortions of the truth that they are lies, and I’m hard pressed to work out which is worst. But they are both present as nightmares that won’t go away because we, in our folly, created them from other people’s lies.

© Peter Rogerson 17.11.16


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